Coronavirus (COVID-19): How Should Landlords Respond?

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog, For Landlords, Landlord Tips, safety

Rely on the People Who Know Science.

When coronavirus has been detected in a rental unit, the first and most compelling course of action is to call local public health officials to seek guidance in how to handle it.

Ask the infected tenant to voluntarily place themselves in a hospital facility, or at a bare minimum, self-isolate themselves.  For someone who exhibited symptoms or has tested positive, the most prudent course of action is to admit themselves into a medical facility. We still do not yet know, though, if the health care system can accommodate an influx of patients. In last Sunday’s press conference, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says a serious concern for his state (and, by extension, California) is that the number of infected people can severely tax the resources of hospitals.  Alternatively, a resident who tests positive for the virus can ideally self-isolate themselves in the rental unit.  Asking someone to sever ties with the rest of the world, of course, is a request that is hard to swallow, but hopefully heeded.  Tenants who are infected should be told that in the interest of transparency, other residents will be notified that someone in the building has tested positive; however, the name of the inflicted tenant shall remain anonymous.

How to attract long-term tenants

Written by Holly Welles on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, Landlord Tips, long-term rental, Maintenance & Renovations, Move-in/Move-out, paid, renters rights, Step 5 - List, Advertise & Show

Fresh out of college with the intention to move from my hometown to a new city, I was searching for an apartment. And when I finally found the listing of my dreams—okay, a listing I could afford—I first had to make sure the landlord was someone I trusted to respect my living situation as much as I respected their property.

For a young renter, meeting with a new landlord can be intimidating. I was nervous about apartment hunting on my own, but even more nervous about failing to see eye-to-eye with my potential landlord.

Fortunately, from our first meeting, my landlord made it clear that my interests were as important as his business. I live in a small building with my landlord residing on the first floor, which makes a healthy rental relationship crucial. Happily, my landlord has a great attitude that has attracted and kept multiple long-term tenants.

I’ve renewed my lease since that first year and have every intention of doing so until my living needs change. How did my landlord inspire this, and how can you take his lead? From moving in to living in harmony, here’s how you can inspire long-term rental relationships with tenants.

1. Consider a compromise

The day I signed my lease, the landlord was showing the listing to two other potential tenants. I had lined up a few viewings and was hesitant to jump on signing without finding out my options. Rather than pressure me to grab the listing while I could, my landlord granted me a grace period—he would not lease the space that day without hearing from me first.

I appreciated that this potential landlord was willing to work with me. His gesture showed me that he valued me as a potential tenant and was understanding of my situation.

If you want to make a good first impression on your tenants, laying the foundation to build a long-term relationship, making even a small gesture can do the trick. A flexible policy can go a long way.

2. Offer a warm welcome

When I moved in, my landlord provided me with a list of his favorite community hotspots and a few restaurant recommendations. His friendliness alleviated all my earlier anxieties about living in a new space, and he established himself as a go-to contact for questions about our neighborhood.

If you want to start off on the right foot, a small welcome gift or some cultivated advice can go a long way. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but a welcome package is a kind gesture that shows you care. Besides free advice, here are some inexpensive items you might want to include:

  • Coffee beans
  • Baked goods
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Map of the area
  • Coupon or gift card for a local favorite
  • Your contact info on a notecard

Note that if you provide consumables, make sure your tenant is aware of the ingredients.

Welcoming your tenant opens a line of communication early on, encouraging your tenant to call you in case something happens. A welcome package is a perfect first step.

Related: Provide Bathroom Essentials on Move-In Day

3. Maintain the “little” things

Neglect can drive a wedge in your rental relationships, particularly if the tenant believes you don’t care for their comfort. Landlords should respond to maintenance requests as soon as possible, and this can include more than apartment maintenance.

Parking was an issue during my first week of moving in because I struggled to perfectly maneuver into my tight space. When I mentioned it to my landlord, he guided me into the spot. He even sent me an appreciative text once when he noticed I had parallel parked like a pro. He took time out of his day for this small act, and I felt appreciative.

Related: Be an ethical landlord

4. Make the area safe

With today’s technology, installing security measures in your complex is simpler than ever.

Browse through the broad selection of modern tech and determine which cameras and locks are most suitable for your building. If you make the adjustments to your property, brief your tenants on new procedures and protocol. You can send out an email or place notes on the doors, but make sure to keep them informed.

My landlord has never compromised in this area. Between a security camera by my parking space and his diligence in maintaining my exterior locks, I feel secure living alone as a young woman. His respect for my security contributes to my decision to renew my lease each year.

Related: Should Landlords (or Tenants) Install an Alarm System?

5. Show respect for privacy

I never have to worry about surprise inspections. That’s not a healthy way to approach the landlord-tenant dynamic, not to mention that the practice is illegal in most jurisdictions. Though you own the property, you should show some tact when navigating a renter’s space.

If you’re planning to enter a tenant’s unit for whatever reason other than an emergency, let them know in advance. Schedule a date and time that won’t inconvenience them, and try your best not to break from it. They should feel happy to see you, not horrified at the prospect you might appear at any given moment for an impromptu check.

In this area, like many others, your relationship rests on your ability to communicate. Maintain a regular back-and-forth where you discuss these things. Tenants deserve privacy, so it’s essential you give them their personal space.

Related: Can a Landlord Enter the Property Whenever They Want?

Building long-term rental relationships

My concerns about navigating my new rental relationship were swept away by the respect my landlord has shown for both the apartment I leased and my living situation. None of his actions take much time or money, but they add up. Not only am I more likely to continue this long-term rental relationship, but I’m also encouraged to do everything I can to make my landlord’s life easier as well.

Your tenants can share my positivity. Start with a small gesture, and go from there.

What sparks joy in your rental business?

Written by Sarah Block on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, Income Ideas, Landlord Tips, paid

Marie Joy RentalsMarie Kondo’s new Netflix show “Tidying Up” is inspiring people to find what “Sparks Joy” in their homes. But what about the landlord tasks in your rental business that spark joy in your life (or don’t)?

Landlords have a multitude of tasks involved with their business. Some we love, and some we hate. Life is short. So why aren’t we spending our time doing what we enjoy and outsourcing the rest?

The key is deciding what tasks to keep and what to outsource to someone else. But outsourcing can be difficult for most landlords. Whenever I speak with landlords about this topic, the most common response I hear is, “That reduces my profit.”

It does if you choose to think of it that way. However, if you think of your time in terms of dollars per hour, you factor in how much your time is worth. If you outsource a task you don’t enjoy and it costs less than your value, it frees your time up to make money doing something you enjoy.

Related: How to automate landlord responsibilities

Find what sparks joy in your rental business

One of the bests aspects of being a landlord or property manager is there are so many different things to do to make the business work.

  • Researching and finding the best rental
  • Preparing the unit to be rented
  • Advertising
  • Finding tenants
  • Screening tenants
  • Onboarding tenants
  • Managing maintenance and communication
  • Handling the finances

The hard part about being a landlord is that you are bound to hate some of those tasks.

How to decide what to outsource

Make a list of everything you do for your rental properties—from cleaning to showings—and number them from 1 (what you love) to 10 (what you hate).

Figure out how much money your time is worth. Consider commute costs, how much you get paid doing other jobs, and any other factors that affect the value of your time to determine how much your hour is worth.

Consider whether special tools or equipment are needed for any of the tasks. What is the cost for those tools?

Look at the tasks you marked in your bottom 5.

  • How many hours would those tasks take you to complete? Keep in mind, it will take you longer than an expert.
  • What is the cost of special tools, equipment, or materials for those tasks?
  • What is the going rate for someone to complete those tasks?

Add up the hours it would take for you to complete the task and multiply it by your value per hour. Add in the cost of materials and equipment needed for the task. What is the cost of that task if you complete it?

Now, how much would it cost someone else to complete it? If this number is less than your number, outsource it.

Related: How to find a contractor you can trust

How to increase profits by “Sparking Joy?”

You might be thinking that this method of outsourcing and doing only what sparks joy for you is all well and good. But not actually getting paid during the time you’re outsourcing a task to someone else isn’t ideal.

But what if you can be paid while you outsource?

Look at the top five tasks on your list, the tasks you love doing. Can you offer any as a service to other landlords?

You have experience doing those tasks. You enjoy doing them. Other landlords might have them on the bottom of their list. Why not build a service business doing what you love?

Conclusion

Life is too short to do tasks you hate. Outsource the landlord responsibilities you don’t enjoy doing, and focus on what you do love.

The end result will be better quality work. And you will find more joy in your life.

Tenant move-out letter plus 2 other free templates

Written by Laura Agadoni on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, Landlord Tips, Leases & Legal, Move-in/Move-out, paid, Rent & Expenses, Security Deposits, Step 12 - Move-Out

Your goal as a landlord is not only to have tenants but to keep tenants (the good ones anyway) as long as possible. But no matter how wonderful you are as a landlord, and how great your rental may be, there usually comes a time when your tenant needs to move.

When your tenant plans to move, you should make the move-out process as smooth as possible. This benefits you and your tenant—when your tenant knows what to expect, they’re more likely to meet your expectations. Here are some templates you can use when your tenants’ leases are about to end.

The lease renewal letter

If you want your tenant to sign a new lease, contact them about two months before the current lease is due to end. The purpose of the lease renewal letter is to find out what their intentions are and to explain what they need to do if they wish to continue to live in your rental.

Tip: This is the time to raise the rent if you intend to.

Related: How to raise the rent in 4 easy steps [free template]

Related: Should I increase rental rates every year?

Note: If you do nothing after the lease ends, and your tenant stays, your tenant becomes a month-to-month tenant.

Lease renewal letter template

Note: You don’t have to increase the rent. If you don’t want to, change that section to reflect the rent will remain the same.

2. The move-out letter

If your tenant decides not to renew and wishes to move, send them a move-out letter about a month before the lease ends. The purpose is to give instructions on what you expect of your tenant.

Move-out letter template

Note: This letter contains language about lease requirements. Make sure yours does as well before you include that.

3. Notice to pay rent or quit

If your current tenant missed a rent payment (or two), you probably shouldn’t invite them to renew the lease. In fact, you should send them a letter asking them to pay the rent ASAP or leave.

Notice to pay rent or quit template

Once you rent your property, you will hopefully have wonderful tenants who stay a long time. But since that isn’t always the case, you can still make things easier for everyone involved if you are proactive with your tenants by letting them know what the expectations are during move-out time.

Staple supplies for landlords to keep on hand

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, landlord, Landlord Tips, Maintenance & Renovations, paid, painting, rental maintenance

If you’re a landlord who wants to run a tight ship, you need certain supplies on hand to deal with common situations.

These supplies include tools and maintenance items, paperwork to make your life easier, spare keys, and a way to remove unauthorized padlocks and chains.

Tools and supplies for basic maintenance

Your toolbox should include the basics:

  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver
  • Power drill

For small electrical repairs:

  • Multimeter
  • Wire splicing tool
  • Utility knife

For plumbing repairs:

  • Two pairs of locking pliers (One pair is for holding the pipe while you tighten a leaking fitting with the other.)

Besides tools, you’ll need a few supplies to complete repairs. If you keep an inventory of a few basics, you can complete simple repairs efficiently without repeated trips to the hardware store. The list isn’t long. It includes:

  • An assortment of screws and other fasteners
  • Wall anchors
  • Electrical tape, duct tape, and plumbing tape
  • Carpenter’s glue and 2-part epoxy

Related: A landlord’s toolbox for appliance repair and maintenance

Supplies for painting and cosmetic maintenance

When a tenant moves out, you almost always have to do some painting to make the rental ready for a new tenant. Keep the following in your paint closet:

  • Touch-up paint
  • Brushes
  • Rollers

The painting job inevitably involves a certain amount of wall repair. So it’s a good idea to also keep the following supplies in your paint closet so you can make these repairs quickly and minimize downtime for the rental:

  • Drywall joint compound
  • Drywall tape
  • Spackling compound
  • Patching compound
  • A four-inch putty knife and a 6- and 10-inch drywall knife
  • A paint scraper

Related: The top skill you should perfect: painting

Cleaning tools and supplies

Cleaning is an important part of the turnaround process, so your supply closet should include the following:

  • Mop
  • Assortment of rags and sponges
  • Bucket
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Spray bottle that you can fill with vinegar (comes in handy for cleaning hard water streaks from the bathroom walls and shower door)
  • Squeegee

In addition, it’s a great idea to keep the following supplies in the cleaning closet:

  • Ammonia
  • Bleach-based cleanser
  • Dish soap for delicate cleaning jobs
  • Enzyme-based drain cleaner for slow drains
  • Scouring powder
  • Vinegar and/or hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting
  • Window cleaning fluid

Related: How to get your security deposit back

Paperwork to keep in your file cabinet

Your file cabinet should include the instruction manual for each of your appliances, as well as a copy of the warranty (if it’s still in effect). Besides these, it’s a good idea to keep the following paperwork:

  • Copies of lead paint and other disclosure forms that you are required to supply to new tenants
  • Fact sheets about the rental that include safety information and important phone numbers that you can supply to tenants
  • Ready-to-fill-out leases and/or rental agreements.

Related: Find a rock-solid rental lease and stick to it

Prepare for lockouts

It’s good practice to limit the number of keys you give out, and it’s an even better practice to have at least one spare set for each rental. Keep the keys in a place you can access quickly, and a late night emergency call from a tenant who has misplaced keys will be less of a bother.

Tenants who lose keys sometimes use their own locks to keep doors and other parts of a rental unit secure. It isn’t unheard of for these unauthorized locks to remain when the tenants vacate the premises. Keep a pair of bolt cutters in your toolbox, and you can remove them.

Related: 4 considerations when choosing locks for your rental properties

Consolidate all your supplies in one place

Not all landlords do all their own maintenance and repairs, but if you do, consider investing in an inexpensive used vehicle in which to keep supplies (except paperwork). This is a great idea if you have multiple units. You’ll always have the things you need right at hand, and you won’t have the hassle of organizing materials each time a job arises. You’ll save time and money, and every little bit helps to keep your rental operation in the black.

Be an ethical landlord

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in edited, ethics, For Landlords, landlord, Landlord Tips, paid, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

communicationWhen a landlord has high standards, renters enjoy peace of mind. They know their comfort, safety, and happiness are important.

In return, an ethical landlord enjoys the benefits of happy renters who are more likely to treat the property with care and respect…and stay longer. And that’s good for business.

An ethical landlord has a mission: to supply comfortable and safe housing for a fair price. Here are the traits and practices you should adopt if you want to take this mission seriously.

1. Be accessible and responsive

Whether it’s noisy neighbors, a plumbing leak, or a fallen tree, problems happen. When one arises, renters need to know whom to call. And when they make the call, someone should answer. An ethical landlord will rarely have renters say, “I’ve been trying to get hold of the landlord, but no luck.” Even if it’s a problem you can’t fix immediately, such as rude neighbors, make it clear that you’ve heard your renters’ concerns, and you’ll take appropriate action.

Related:

3 must-learn landlord communication lessons

How to handle noise complaints from neighbors

Noisy neighbors drive me crazy. Now what?

2. Do maintenance right away

When things go wrong, renters’ lives are affected until those problems are fixed. An ethical landlord takes care of problems, whether they are leaks or toilet clogs, as soon as possible. If you can’t respond yourself, have a professional relationship with a local maintenance contractor who can respond on your behalf. It’s not a bad idea to develop a network of tradespeople to ensure that one contractor’s full schedule doesn’t prevent repairs from happening quickly.

Related: How to build a little black book of contractors

3. Set clear boundaries, but be flexible

Tenants have the right to enjoy your property, but they should never lose sight of the fact that it’s yours. The best place to assert this is in the lease, where you spell out your preferences and any rules you want tenants to follow. They’ll appreciate learning these rules before they sign the document, rather than after they’ve become settled.

An ethical landlord recognizes that life is unpredictable and can bend the rules when the situation calls for it. As the saying goes, “stuff happens.”

Related:

Compassion after the storm: Four ways to be there for tenants

7 extraordinary lease clauses I can’t live without

4. Be fair with money

You’re trying to run a business, but don’t gouge people. Besides, if your rents are too high, you’ll probably have difficulty renting your place. Research rental prices so you know what your property is worth on the rental market. A great tool for doing this is a Cozy Rent Estimate report. Set prices in a way that keeps you in the black without creating hardships for your renters.

Charge a security deposit—that’s standard practice—and return it in a timely manner to renters who fulfill the requirements for getting it back. If you need to keep some or all of it, give tenants’ an itemized list of charges.

Related: How to set the perfect rent price for your rental properties

5. Keep good records

When disputes arise over the condition of appliances or structural issues, you’ll be on firmer ground if you have clear records. Those records should include the dates when appliances were bought or serviced, dated statements from property inspectors, and invoices from maintenance and repair pros. When in doubt about whether damage is due to normal wear and tear or to renters’ negligence, those records can help avoid “your word against theirs” scenarios and keep you on the moral high ground. Besides maintenance history, your records should include a move-in checklist.

Related: 10 documents every landlord should keep on file

6. Keep renters in the loop

Good communication involves more than just being responsive. You should also be proactive when you become aware of issues that will affect renters in the future. Whether it’s a hike in the gas bill or the rent or an impending improvement project, renters appreciate knowing about it as far in advance as possible so they can be prepared.

7. Respect privacy

An ethical landlord doesn’t place property ownership above respect for privacy. Local laws may allow you to enter a renter’s home to perform inspections or repairs, but you should never do so unannounced. Make an appointment. That way, renters can be prepared for you, and they won’t feel violated.

Related: Can a landlord enter the property whenever they want?

8. Be careful with private information

When renters sign the lease, they entrust you with sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers. Abusing this information or losing it through carelessness is a violation of privacy, even though you may do it inadvertently. Taking care of that information by storing it safely, and using it only when necessary, shows your respect for privacy. If you keep the information on a computer, make sure the files are protected by a firewall. Better yet, store sensitive files on an external drive.

In a nutshell

When landlords maintain high ethical standards, it’s a win-win-win for landlords, renters, and the community at large. Not to mention it’s also good for business.

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